Sunday, August 12, 2007

New Zealand Native Trees

Many of New Zealand`s native plants are endemic to our islands, we have been isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years and our plants have developed for the conditions. Before humans settled here, about 1500 yrs ago, there were only 2 species of mammals, a tiny bat and seals, with much bird life, including the extinct Moa and many others now gone for good ..

I am a staunch advocate for the NZ native flora and fauna - here are just afew of our beautiful trees that the bees love !

One of the most stunning trees, Pohutukawa( Metrosideros excelsa) also called NZ Christmas tree due to the fact it flowers over the summer period. It is a large much branched tree which can grow to about 50 metres - these trees literally hum with bees when in flower. It is an iconic NZ symbol and although a coastal tree, it will grow well inland. Dry seasons result in the heaviest nectar flows from Pohutukawa, the bees working the blossoms from dawn to dusk. The flowers offer ample greenish yellow pollen which cover the bees, no more pollen than that required is collected, so copious is the nectar flow.
Pohutukawa honey is water white when extracted and has a unique salty flavour !!

The Kowhai or (Sophora tetraptera) middle of the North Island and (Sophora microphylla) throughout NZ, are one of the best know early flowering native trees. Kowhai can reach a height of 12 metres, bursting into flower in the spring before the new leaves arrive. The bees compete with birds for the large amount of nectar produced form the gorgeous bright yellow bell-like flowers. The pollen is deep orange, but it is the nectar the bees tend to collect. The honey is a light amber in colour with a mild but distinctive flavour.

This photo is one I took last year on a visit to Pukekura Park in the lovely west coast city of New Plymouth, about 3 hours from where I live.
The bird is the native pigeon or Keraru, sitting up in a mature Kowhai tree, she/he just sat there while I took photos and generally mucked around under the tree ! As you can see, the tree has a filmy canopy effect, the leaves being quite small and pinnate. The keraru is a stunning bird with beautiful irridecsent plumage, they are so big and heavy you can hear then flying, they tend to crash-land onto small branches - very easy to catch by Maori bird hunters, it is illegal to eat them now !!

The Houhere( Hoheria populnea) is a small forest tree, up to 12 metres high, also known as Lacebark, due to the lacy effect
of the bark when peeled off. The flowers are white and star-shaped, the bees adore it, I do to, it is a lovely tree, it has so many sweetly scented flowers, often concealing the leaves. It flowers in the autumn with the bees collecting large amounts of nectar, the amber honey having a strong but not unpleasant flavour.

Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) has been in the news alot lately with the discovery of the UMF ( unique manuka factor). The common name is Tea Tree, early settlers discovered the leaves boiled (for a good length of time ) made a drinkable brew ! Manuka will secrete nectar under almost any conditions, the rich amber honey varies a good deal both in flavour and consistency, influenced by soil types, weather conditions and the intensity of the honey flow. This small tree is found throughout NZ, I grew up on an isolated sheep farm in the King Country ( central North Is ), my farmer father spent many long hours cutting manuka down, never realising of course, how rich we would be now if we had known the wonderful healing properties of both the honey and the oil produced by this shrubby, scrubby tree.

No comments: